The question of the existence of a supreme being has been debated throughout history. Brilliant people exist on all sides of the argument. Recently, the “New Atheists” have launched a full-frontal attack against belief in a deity, and against Christianity in particular. Christians are often considered irrational and delusional. In fact, there are best-selling books based on that very premise. Atheist/agnostic Richard Dawkins wrote The God Delusion, and former Christian pastor, John Loftus got even more specific with his book, The Christian Delusion. However, this name-calling goes both ways. In Romans, Paul called those that reject his God are “fools” (Romans 1:22). So, who’s right? Is belief in God irrational? Or is there a logical and reasonable argument for the existence of God? Can a Christian make a case for the existence of God without using the Bible? Does Christianity refute the arguments of both the old and new atheists and give sufficient basis for believing in a Creator?
The answer is, yes, it can. Moreover, in demonstrating the validity of an argument for the existence of God, the case for atheism is shown to be intellectually void.
As we begin to explore this question, we must make sure we are asking the right questions. The most important question we could ask, and the one that is common among all beliefs is: “Why does anything exist at all?” Many forms of this question have been asked through history. Why do we exist? Why does the universe exist? In essence, our very existence raises the question about God.
In considering the question of why any thing exists, there are four possibilities.
- Reality is illusionary.
- Reality created itself or arose from nothing.
- Reality is eternal.
- Reality was created by an all-powerful, self-existent, external cause.
Reality is Illusionary
Eastern religions, like Buddhism and Hinduism, take this position. But this is a self-refuting position. In the words of philosopher, René Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” In other words, the very fact that you are doubting the reality of reality necessitates that reality. In order for something to be illusionary, there must be a real awareness of the illusion. As soon as you doubt your own existence you end up proving it.
Reality Created Itself or Arose From Nothing
Many an atheist has taken this position. The claim is that the Big Bang was a combination of gravity and some sort of atomic molecule, possibly hydrogen and/or helium. The problem is that if the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe and everything in it, from where did the gravity and the material come to create the explosion? This possibility is analytically false and also self-refuting. That’s like saying, “I’m my own grandpa,” which is completely impossible, unless you live in the hills of (fill-in-the-blank-stereotypical state where inbreeding is commonplace). Obviously no thing can be its own cause. Another theory along these lines is known as “spontaneous generation,” where something is created from nothing and by nothing. Even the skeptic and staunch atheist David Hume states that he has “never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause.” As such, the possibility of reality arising from nothing is ruled out. In the words of the prophetess, Julia Andrews, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.”
Eternal Reality vs. Eternal Deity
Now that we have eliminated two of the four possibilities, we are left with two arguments. Either the universe and everything in it is eternal, or there is an eternal, all-powerful, self-existent uncaused cause that is responsible for the creation of the universe and everything in it.
The common denominator between both positions is that something must be eternal. As Christians, we believe that God is eternal and created time, space and matter. The scoffing skeptic who derides the Christian believer for asserting that an eternal Creator exists simultaneously must embrace an eternal universe. There is no other option. The question then becomes; which came first, the Mind or the matter? In other words, did God create us, or, as atheists assert, did we create God?
In The Big Bang Beginning
In 1916, Albert Einstein was working on his theory of General Relativity and was making some discoveries that he did not particularly like. If he was right, the universe was not eternal but had a definite beginning. Up to that point, most scientists, Einstein included, believed that the universe was, self-existent, static, and eternal.
Three years later, British cosmologist Arthur Eddington conducted an experiment during a solar eclipse confirming Einstein’s General Relativity. Eddington also lamented his findings: “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me. . . . I should like to find a genuine loophole.”
And then came the immense icing on the cosmic cake. Willem de Sitter, a Dutch astronomer had posited that Einstein’s General Relativity required that the universe be expanding. And in 1927, that expansion was observed for the first time by an astronomer by the name of Edwin Hubble.
As he peered through his 100-inch telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Southern California, he noticed a “redshift” in the light, indicating that the galaxies were moving away from earth.
Physics nerd moment: This “redshift” phenomenon is probably experienced by you on a regular basis. As a fast-moving emergency vehicle is approaches with its sirens blaring, the sound waves compress, giving the impression that the pitch of the sound is getting higher. As the emergency vehicle passes, the sound waves expand, which makes the pitch of the siren seem to fall. Light waves function very similarly to sound waves. The higher frequency light waves emit light towards the violet end of the visible spectrum, and the lower frequency light waves emit light towards the red end of the visible spectrum. Thus, much like the siren on an emergency vehicle, as light moves away from a point, it appears more red in color.
In 1929, Einstein observed this “redshift” phenomenon on his own when he traveled to the Mount Wilson Observatory. This confirmed that the universe was indeed expanding and therefore had a beginning, just as General Relativity had predicted. As a result of this discovery, Einstein redirected his efforts saying, “I want to know how God created the world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thought, the rest are details.”
Aside from the scientific angle, there’s also the philosophical aspect time itself. Is an eternal universe even possible? Consider time, it has three major concepts: past, present and future. If eternity were reality, how long would one have to wait for the present to arrive? Think of eternity as a never ending line of dominoes. If the present is the last domino to fall in eternity past, it would take eternity for the present to arrive. But because there is a present, time cannot be infinite. If time were infinite, today would never come, let alone tomorrow. Therefore, because there is a now, eternity cannot exist within time either logically or actually, so time and the universe must have a beginning.
So, we can see, based on the scientific and philosophic evidence that the universe is not eternal but had a beginning. The vast majority of scientists have come to accept the reality of a beginning, and everything that has a beginning necessarily has a cause.
The Law of Causality
The Law of Causality states that anything that has a beginning must necessarily have a cause. This is also known as cause and effect. This is the very fundamental principle of all science. Science is all about finding cause and effect. Without the Law of Causality, science is impossible. As Francis Bacon (the father of modern science) put it, “True knowledge is knowledge by causes.” In other words, science is a search for causes.
Nothing ever happens without a cause. Only a child that has just been busted for drawing on the walls or stealing the cookies from the cookie jar would use the “it just happened” defense. Even the great atheistic skeptic David Hume does not deny the Law of Causality. He wrote, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something could arise without a cause.”
If the Law of Causality is denied, there can be no foundation for science, neither can there be a foundation for any rationality whatsoever! The best question for someone that denies the Law of Causality is: “What caused you to come to that conclusion?” Hopefully they will see the error of their ways, if not, they have issues that you will likely be unable to solve.
Necessary within the law of causality is the simple fact that an effect must resemble its cause. Since our reality consists of intelligent, loving, moral, relational beings (humans), the cause of our reality must be an intelligent, loving, moral, relational cause. An atheistic view of how intelligent, loving, moral, relational beings arose from an impersonal, amoral, random cause cannot account for the reality in which we live. Therefore, the universe cannot be the cause.
The Uncaused Cause
Now that we have eliminated the possibility of an eternal universe we can reasonably conclude that the explanation for the existence of the universe is an external cause.
Up to this point, we have established that this cause must exist beyond the universe. In other words, it must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial. This cause also must be infinitely powerful and intelligent in order to bring time, space and matter into existence. We have also established that this cause must also be loving, moral and relational.
The final necessary quality of this cause is that it must itself be uncaused. Or, as Aristotle put it, there must be an “unmoved mover.” By being uncaused, this cause must necessarily be eternal and self-existent. To which the atheist will argue that we have contradicted what we just said about the impossibility of infinity/eternity. But we have not. We established that eternity cannot exists within the realm of time and eternity can only exist outside of time.
It is likely that your atheist friend will then respond by pointing out another perceived contradiction: “If everything has to have a cause, how can there be an uncaused cause?” In other words, who/what created God. Jason Dulle at Theosophical Ruminations tackles this question quite nicely. He summarizes:
[T]here cannot be an infinite regress of things that require a cause external to themselves. There must be a termination of the causal chain. Whatever terminates the causal chain cannot itself be something that requires a cause external to itself, but must be a necessary being from which all contingent beings derive their existence.
(I highly recommend reading the entirety of his post.)
Who Is God?
Now that we have shown that an eternal Creator exists, we must ask the question: What kind of Creator is He? As I mentioned earlier, the effect must resemble the cause. The inverse of that statement is also true. The cause must resemble the effect. Therefore, we ought to be able to look at the effect (the created realm) and learn some things about the Cause (the Creator).
So far we have established that the uncaused Cause must be:
Interestingly, the vast majority of those attributes can be seen in the opening chapters of the Judeo-Christian Bible. In fact, the very first verse of the Bible shows that the Creator exists outside of time, space, and matter and implies that He is powerful and intelligent:
In the beginning (time), God (the uncaused Cause) created (implies power and intelligence) the heavens (space) and the earth (matter).
Throughout the rest of the first chapter, God expresses His love by preparing a garden for Adam and Eve where all of their needs will be provided:
And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Gen 1:29).
In the next chapter we see God’s moral attribute as He establishes a law:
Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:15-17).
And finally, in chapter 3, we see that once the covenant between God and man is broken it is God who makes the first move to reestablish a relationship with man:
Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9).
So from the very beginning of the Biblical narrative God is trying to prove His existence and show us who He is, and all throughout the Bible He continues to make Himself known.
As we can see, there is a rational, logical and reasonable argument for the existence of God. That being the case, perhaps Richard Dawkins and John Loftus are the delusional ones. The apostle Paul seems to agree with this position:
[B]ecause which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even thought they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom 1:19-22, NASB)
Once we come to an understanding that God does indeed exist, the next step is to seek Him. And once we seek Him, we can know that He will be found of us. As the writer of Hebrews says, “…he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV)